While some might think paint simply brings color to the walls, volunteers working at Northport Elementary on Tuesday hope it also brings enthusiasm and inspiration.
“There’s tons of energy here,” said Mike Smith, the school’s new Arts Integration Specialist. “People are really optimistic about the school year.”
Smith is one of dozens who volunteered his time to make the school more beautiful before classes begin. They spent the day planting flowers, brightening otherwise drab-colored pots, and painting walls.
“There’s an element of energy to this,” said Alina Campana, Program Director for Turnaround Arts: Minnesota. “Not only are the arts good for kids, they’re good for teachers.”
The efforts kick off Northport’s first year as a designated Turnaround Arts school. One of only four in Minnesota, the initiative aims to use the arts to increase student engagement and close the achievement gap.
“I’m hoping that it will empower them to want to know more and go further,” said Leona Derden, Northport’s Principal. “It’s going to help them, motivate them to want to say, ‘Yay, I love my school, I believe in my teachers, I believe I can achieve.’”
To set the tone for the upcoming school year, volunteers organized Tuesday’s “Beautification Day” and asked for manpower. Fourth grader Hannah Labat grabbed a paintbrush and jumped right in.
“We’ve painted the walls, we’ve painted splatters here and we painted blue sky there,” said Labat. “It makes it more colorful in our school.”
She and others are hoping some bright colors and fresh flowers will bring with it a positive change.
“Hopefully people will appreciate our hard work,” she said.
The Turnaround Arts initiative costs about $1 million. The district is paying for it using federal funds, as well as money from the State Arts Board and the State Legislature.
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